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Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States. Men with prostate cancer face challenges that go beyond fighting the disease. They worry about how the disease and its treatments will impact their lifestyle and relationships.
Some potential side effects of prostate cancer and its treatment include:
Some men with prostate cancer experience urinary incontinence (UI) and/or erectile dysfunction (ED) during or after treatment. A prostatectomy (removal of the prostate) can damage the valves of the bladder and disrupt the way it holds urine. It can also damage certain nerves and blood vessels that control a man’s ability to get or keep an erection, ejaculate or reach orgasm.
Radiation therapy to the pelvis can affect bladder function by changing the nerves and muscles used to control urine flow. It can also damage the arteries that bring blood to the penis and cause problems with getting or keeping an erection. Some hormonal therapies, chemotherapies and medications can also cause UI and/or ED.
Depending on the type of treatment received, extent of the damage, and other individual factors, UI and ED may be temporary or permanent. It often takes a longer period of time to regain erectile function (e.g., 6 -12 months) than it does to overcome incontinence.
Getting back to “normal” after prostate cancer is a real concern for many men. Fear or embarrassment over urine leakage may keep you from participating in activities you enjoy. Anxiety about sexual performance can put a strain on intimate relationships. Other side effects, like fatigue, nausea or constipation, can decrease sexual feelings.
Fortunately, even if urinary incontinence and/or erectile dysfunction do not completely resolve, you can learn how to manage these conditions so you can continue to live an active life after treatment.
Treatment for UI and ED depends on the type, severity and cause of the problem, and may include a combination of approaches. Fortunately, new and innovative techniques in prostate cancer treatment can help lessen damage to the bladder valves and to the nerves and blood vessels that control erections.
Your doctor may recommend nerve-sparing methods during surgery to preserve erectile function. Also, advanced radiation technologies, like the Calypso® 4D Localization System™, target cancerous cells and protect healthy tissues, helping to minimize sexual and urinary side effects.
If ED occurs, treatment methods may include: medications, injections, vacuum devices, implants, or testosterone replacement. Your doctor may also recommend counseling, as sexual dysfunction can cause emotional distress.
Treatment for UI may include surgical interventions and/or certain medications that help to reduce bladder muscle contractions and block the nerve signals that cause urine urgency and frequency. Your doctor may also recommend biofeedback methods to help you learn how to control the muscles you use to urinate. Additionally, products like absorbent pads can help hide urine leakage.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING YOUR CANCER CARE.
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